In a bid to prevent the spread of Viral Hepatitis among its personnel and their families, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on Friday 15th November 2019, held an awareness lecture on Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) at Headquarters NAF (HQ NAF) in Abuja.
Apart from the awareness lecture, personnel were also screened and those who tested negative to the virus were vaccinated. The lecture, which was themed “Empowering Personnel to Eliminate Hepatitis out of the Nigerian Air Force”, was delivered by Professor Adamu Samaila, a professor of Gastroenterology/Hepatology from Bayero University, Kano State, NAF director of public relations and information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola had stated.
While declaring the lecture open, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans (COPP), Air Vice Marshal Napoleon Bali, emphasized that the programme was aimed at adequately sensitizing participants on the HBV and HCV viral diseases which are capable of degrading the capacity of the Service to deploy affected personnel for necessary trainings and operations.
According to him, the Service has since discovered that there is no better way to fight Hepatitis than to prevent its spread through regular screening and sensitization programmes.
The CAS recalled that the reasoning behind the upgrading of NAF Medical Services from a Directorate to a Branch status was to ensure enhanced healthcare delivery for NAF personnel, their families as well as host communities of the NAF. This, he said, was born out of the realization that the combat readiness of the NAF does not only depend on the employment of sophisticated aircraft or advanced weapon systems, but also on sound mental and physical fitness of the personnel who operate the various platforms and equipment.
He remarked that this had also necessitated the upgrading of existing NAF Hospitals and Medical Centres as well as the construction of new Reference Hospitals equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to provide better preventive and curative medical services.
In terms of preventive services, Air Marshal Abubakar noted that the NAF had emplaced measures to ensure that Hepatitis and similar diseases do not pose a challenge to NAF operational readiness.
According to him, such measures included rigorous screening to ensure that only medically fit individuals are recruited into the Service. In addition, he noted that NAF units conduct regular enlightenment campaigns, while the Service continues to build the capacity of its Medical personnel and improve facilities in various NAF Hospitals to screen, detect, treat and manage Hepatitis and other ailments.
He added that the Service would continue to enlist more medical professionals, provide better infastructure and procure more advanced equipment.
In his welcome address, the Chief of Medical Services (CMS), Air Commodore Gideon Bako, stated that, despite the tremendous strides made in public health, infectious diseases control and preventive medicine during the past century, infectious agents remain a significant threat to the operational capacity of military forces. This, he said, underscored the need for continuous sensitization to prevent the spread of causal viruses. He reiterated that the provision of relevant information as well as preventive measures, such as vaccination and treatment, when necessary, were valid ways of empowering personnel to eliminate Hepatitis from the NAF.
The CMS used the opportunity to thank the CAS for his immense support and investment in the Medical Services Branch, stating that the Branch would continue to reciprocate by ensuring enhanced professional performance and excellent service delivery. He urged all personnel and their families to endeavour to present themselves for screening and vaccination at any NAF Medical Facility.
Professor Adamu Samaila’s lecture, which was very well received, addressed the causes of Hepatitis as well as the risk factors, clinical presentations, management and prevention of the disease.
The highlight of the event was the screening of participants at the HQ NAF Clinic.